Keri English: It seems that On Demand Books has something that we all want—the ability to print on demand without all the stress of minimum print runs and splitting royalties with publishers. How does it feel to be on the forefront of a huge step for the publishing world?
Karina Mikhli: Exciting…but we do give publishers a negotiated percentage of sales for in-copyright titles.
KE: Tell us a bit about what you do at On Demand Books:
KM: My job is to work with publishers and content aggregators to license more content for our network. And since the launch of SelfServe, our web-based self-upload for authors and small publishers, I’ve become the administrator of that as well.
KE: I recently watched a video of the EBM in action and I thought… wow, why did it take so long to create such a thing? Why do you think now is the time for the EBM?
KM: The company actually launched in 2003 but since it’s based on a very different model than what’s traditional, it’s been a slow uphill battle to get people to see the benefit. We’ve been making more headway recently and now with our partnerships with ReaderLink and Kodak, we’ll be entering a new channel too.
KE: What exactly is SelfServe and how would a self-published author get started with it?
KM: SelfServe is our web-based, self-upload for authors and small publishers. You go to our website, read about it, and if you like what you’ve read, there’s a short form to fill out. I then create an account for the author and send them login information and instructions on how to get started.
KE: Talk about the EBM Shelves program. How can the program help indie authors to get their books into stores and libraries? This is perhaps the biggest of all obstacles in self-publishing. Overcoming it is a total breakthrough for indies.
KM: It’s how some of our locations (Brooklyn Public Library, for instance) displays local self-published titles. But each of our locations run their own programs and do things a bit differently.
KE: How many locations currently have the Espresso Book Machine and how long do you think it will take to go worldwide? (Because it will!)
KM: We currently have about 81, with a third of that being in the US, a third in Canada, and the rest abroad. Xerox, who we have a partnership with and does sales and marketing for us, is in talks abroad and now with our Kodak partnership as well, we’re hoping to have many more out there in the next year.
KE: How does a bookseller go about obtaining an EBM machine and what are the benefits for their business when they do so?
KM: Most just call or e-mail us and our VP of Sales, Jason Beatty, then follows-up with them.
The benefits are many, including able to offer a service to the community via self-publishing and selling and printing books that are not on the shelves.
KE: There is a lot of recent press about Amazon Digital Publishing and CreateSpace titles not being welcome in many stores. What are the main benefits of using the Espresso Book Machine as opposed to just going through Amazon to publish?
KM: The EBM is all about point of sale fulfillment within the store, so there is no competition with the indies and actually helps support them.
KE: Having worked in traditional publishing, I know that there are many departments that books go through, and many stages of development. How does elimination of these steps help authors besides the immediacy of their product creation?
KM: We hope the authors still get their content copyedited and covers designed—we do not offer such services although many of our EBM retailers do. The main benefit we offer is allowing their books entry into bookstores and if they promote it and/or work with the EBM retailers to do so, they have the ability to sell direct to consumers.
KE: Is there a limitation on design options for books created in the EBM? It’s impressive that it produces a four color cover. Are there a certain number of templates that must be chosen? What if the author wants their own cover design that is already created—can it be done?
KM: The only limits are the trim (4.5 x 5 to 8.25 x 10.5) and having two print-ready pdfs, one for the cover and one for the interior. If an author has this with their own designs, that’s great and not a problem. And we don’t offer templates but some of our EBM retailers do. We just make the machine and content available.
KE: Is there a wide range of prices that authors use when utilizing the EBM? Do prices tend to be lower when printed on demand than trad pubbed books (as most e-books are for example)?
KM: If using SelfServe, there’s a minimum price the system enforces to ensure that the store’s cost of production is covered. For in-copyright titles, the prices are the same as the traditionally published books but for self-pub, it really depends on the length of the book. POD is still more expensive than traditionally published books since it is one-by-one and it’s going to be more expensive than most e-books since there’s no paper and printing involved in digital.
KE: Do you have any advice from within the business for a new author who isn’t sure whether they want to self-publish or go the traditional route?
KM: I’d try the traditional route first since self-publishing takes a lot of work. Not only do you have to still write it, but you have to hire someone to edit, design, promote, etc. You can always try self-publishing if your book isn’t picked up by one of the houses.
KE: What was the thing that most surprised you when you learned all about the EBM?
KM: How amazing the technology is and how cool it is to watch a book print for you and then get it hot off the press—literally—in five minutes.
Thanks so much for chatting with us Karina and thanks for personally introducing us to the Espresso Book Machine!